Regaining Willpower in the time of Burnout

Written by Yinka Bakare

Ask any person about their ultimate life goal, and chances are, they would initially pursue their dream with high hopes and enthusiasm, up until a setback gets in the way.

Easily, we blame our genetic flaws, unforeseen factors, or the lack of willpower to persist. We often get defensive when we compare ourselves with others who got their success stories. Worst, we end up accepting the fact that we cannot ever achieve our dream because we do not have the required discipline, self-control, or the motivation. But how do we get over our self-defeating thoughts?

Earlier studies would say that self-control has a something to do with the ability to inhibit impulses or instant gratification. But critics also argue that our willpower gets depleted whenever we exert it over a period. Thus, new studies have evolved to support more growth-oriented perspective of our ability to sustain our willpower. A startling example was the 2017 study by the Social Psychological and Personality Science which revealed that students who exerted more self-control do not necessarily achieve their goals. In fact, those students who experienced fewer temptations overall were more successful.

So, while all students encountered somewhat similar temptations, the ones who were able to resist had a big advantage: they do not consider studying as a dull activity. Relating this example to the commonly aspired weight-loss goal, imagine how it would be when people regard exercising or eating healthy as something they enjoy, instead of something they would sacrifice over. Of course, one could also highlight the importance of a conducive environment so it would be easier to make favorable decisions and sustain these. Researches would prove that people will stick to a healthy lifestyle routine when more nutritious food is accessible at home (or that a 15-minute workout is part of a daily schedule).

In our modern world where our time is so precious, yet the pressures are high, the trick is to minimize the amount we rely on willpower. This would involve a change of mindset and planning ahead.